The smell of hot oil frying up latkes evokes many childhood memories for me, but latke-making is always hit or miss in my house: sometimes we get a plateful of golden brown latkes, perfectly cooked throughout that we happily dunk in applesauce; but other times we’re biting into dense, gummy centers.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to latkes: Do you peel the potatoes first? Should they have a doughy, almost cake-like density? Or does the perfect latke have a lacey texture to it? Is it best with chunks of onion or even better with a smooth mixture of potato and onion? Burnt around the edges or golden brown on the surface?
People like their latkes all kinds of different ways so we put the potatoes (and our gadgets) to the test to see what each yields.
Spiralized or Grated Potatoes for Latkes—What Works Best?
Spiralizing is definitely a time-saver when it comes to latke-making. It’s quick work, it yields a consistent shape, and best of all, there’s hardly any moisture. As any great latke-maker will tell you, moisture is the enemy. For good latkes, you need to squeeze all of the juice out of your shredded potatoes. With the spiralizer, there’s virtually no juice. The water is still in the potato, but the spiralized cut yields less water since there is less force on the potato. This is huge. The spiralized latke also cooks evenly. The patty has distinct, spaghetti-like pieces that stick out of the edges—these get golden, crispy, lacey and delicious.
The Box Grater has four surfaces: two wide ones for coarse and medium grating and two slimmer ones for fine grating and slicing. The coarse grating surface is the best for grating potatoes—small, stubby potato shreds collect at the bottom of the box grater container. Unlike spiralizing, a lot of moisture forms from grating since the motion requires you to press down on the potato, and squeeze out liquid. A kitchen towel and colander work to squeeze out the starchy moisture that can make frying more difficult. The Box Grater latke patties are more uniform, shape-wise and can get thick, which can be difficult to control for even cooking.
How to Up Your Latkes with Toppings
One of the best parts of latkes (aside from the fried potato goodness) is how versatile they can be. Mixing and matching toppings is part of the deal. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
You can’t go wrong with cool applesauce and sour cream. The sweetness of the applesauce balances out the oil, and for a creamy match to salty latkes, sour cream plays a perfect counterpart. Even better? Try making your own applesauce to pair with it.
Smoked Salmon + Cream Cheese
For added flavor, a piece of sliced smoked salmon (lox) brings another dimension to the latke. If you’re going this route, sub creme fraiche in for sour cream.
Pomegranate Seeds + Honey + Greek Yogurt
Lean into balancing out the salty latke with in-season pomegranates and honey. The salty and sweet combo always works.
Latkes are fairly similar to hashbrowns so a yolky egg obviously tastes great on top. Learn our tips and tricks for making your best ever poached eggs.
Pumpkin butter plays into the sweet side of things, but it’s more subtle. The buttery goodness packs in added spices (think: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) that latkes can be lacking.
Latkes might seem like hard work and the hot oil doesn’t help their case either, but with a little chutzpah, you can make your perfect latke too. Happy latke-making! And Happy Hanukkah!